Rice Protein Vs. Whey Protein

When picking a protein supplement, you have plenty on the market from which to choose. The supplement you pick depends on your goals, budget, food allergies or whether you have an intolerance, as well as your dietary preferences. Rice protein and whey protein are both viable options for increasing your protein intake, but each has benefits and drawbacks.

Large scoop of whey protein on a countertop. (Image: marekuliasz/iStock/Getty Images)

Where They Come From

Whey is a dairy-based protein derived from milk. You'll generally find whey in two forms -- a basic concentrate, or the purer isolate form, notes sports nutritionist Heidi Skolnik in an article for ''Shape.'' While rice is a carbohydrate-based food, brown rice does contain protein, and this is extracted to make the protein powder. Like whey, rice protein digests easily.

The Nutrition Stats

A serving size of each powder constitutes around 25 to 30 grams. When comparing a leading brand, a serving of rice protein contains 117 calories, 27 grams of protein, just under 2 grams of carbs and almost zero fat. The same amount of whey protein isolate delivers 109 calories, 26 grams of protein, a little over 1 gram of carbohydrate and almost no fat.

Big Benefits

A study published in a 2013 edition of the "Nutrition Journal" found that subjects supplementing with a whey or rice protein powder isolates after workouts saw improvements in body composition and exercise performance. The researchers didn't notice a discernible difference between the two groups. Getting more protein in general may be beneficial for weight loss too. According to Roberta Anding, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in an article for ''Today's Dietitian,'' increased protein intake promotes greater satiety and more sustainable weight loss. If you're struggling to eat enough protein, a supplement may be the answer.

Take Your Pick

Provided you can tolerate dairy, whey protein may be a better choice as it's a complete protein. This means it has all the essential amino acids, whereas rice protein doesn't. Combine rice protein with another vegetarian powder like soy or hemp to get all the essential amino acids. If you're following a plant-based diet, however, rice protein is the only choice for you between the two.

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